STB invests heavily into AR tech

Singapore Tourism Board (STB) has been ramping up it efforts to accelerate the tourism industry in Singapore. After tying up with various brands such as Klook, Expedia, Mastercard, and DBS, it will now be "investing heavily" in augmented reality (AR) in the coming months, as part of its AR strategy.

In a speech at ITB Asia, an annually held three-day B2B trade show and convention for the travel industry, Poh Chi Chuan, chief technology officer at STB, said the board has decided to focus on AR as it is an accessible technology that it believes will be the mainstream in the next couple of years. "AR experiences are mobile led, and do not require much hardware investments, thus leading to the ease of adoption from the consumers' perspective," he added.

STB's AR strategy will have three key thrusts. Firstly, its first objective is to enhance its "Tourism Information and Services Hub" to be AR-compatible. By 2021, Poh said STB will be able to host and distribute high quality AR content that the industry can tap on freely.  This comes as the board recognises that one of the key hurdles in the proliferation of AR by businesses today is that the digital content is costly to develop and to maintain. Thus this first step is to help stakeholders go over this speed bump.

Secondly, STB will also be working closely with partners to build up the bank of AR content to achieve a library of at least 1,000 pieces of high quality 3D content such as Singapore icons, cultural and heritage items over the next few years. This will further enrich the existing content, spanning form more than 8,000 counts of media pieces and information of 3,000 places of interest that it already has today. 

Additionally, STB will be working on a series of AR prototypes to showcase the various applications of AR. These aspirational experiments will be spearheaded by STB's team of in-house developers and created in partnerships with tourism stakeholders and technology providers. Through the prototypes, STB hopes to inspire imagination of what AR can do for the tourism sector. It also invites tourism companies who are keen to create AR experience to have a conversation with them. 

Last but not least, to upskill the industry so that the workforce can leverage such AR content effectively and creatively, STB will be launching a set of recommended technical standards for AR, and a programme in STB’s tech college by the end of the year. "Strong content, that is easily accessed on our platform together with a skilled workforce who know how to use it, would form a winning combination in propelling the industry forward," Poh added. 

Meanwhile, to strengthen experiential offerings in the industry, STB has partnered with Airbnb Experiences to co-promote and grow a range of unique, authentic Airbnb Experiences hosted by locals on the Airbnb Experiences platform. This two-year agreement comprises three strategic pillars: development of Singapore experiences in the new tourism landscape, co-marketing of destination Singapore to stay top-of-mind amongst global audiences, and facilitating data and knowledge exchange to enable effective recovery.

To kick off this partnership, the two organisations have launched Singapore Virtual Trips, a collection of online experiences hosted by Singapore tourism industry partners. This collection is featured on a dedicated landing page on the Airbnb platform. Singapore Virtual Trips features a wide array of unique experiences, including a sustainability-themed tour at Gardens by the Bay’s Cloud Forest, a virtual visit to Peranakan home museum "The Intan" with owner Alvin Yapp, an interactive bingo tour of the one-north tech precinct by Monster Day Tours, and a behind-the-scenes peek into the rich history of the Old Kallang Airport. According to STB, more tourism industry partners are expected to join this initiative following this first wave of online experiences. This partnership is said to encourage Singapore tourism businesses to take their products online and pivot towards innovative hybrid business models, as the industry reimagines the future of tourism.

Under the partnership, both parties will also jointly produce a lineup of co-branded content featuring destination Singapore and Airbnb Experiences, to be served across their respective platforms and channels. STB and Airbnb Experiences also plan to make such content available to travel industry partners via STB’s Tourism Information and Services Hub (TIH). These efforts are especially critical in driving effective recovery as international travel restrictions ease. In addition, both parties will work towards extending destination information, tools, and benefits to Airbnb Experiences guests, such as exclusive offers unlocked through sign-ups for the VisitSingapore app.

Furthermore, STB and Airbnb Experiences will mutually share insights and best practices to grow experience offerings in Singapore and aid in strategic tourism development and recovery. Airbnb Experiences has invited STB to access its City Portal, a data-sharing platform built exclusively for governments and tourism organisations to equip them with travel insights and other relevant resources. This data and knowledge exchange claims to help both parties onboard more targeted Singapore Experiences, refining tourism products and services in this new environment through a deeper understanding of the evolving traveller profile.

Keith Tan, chief executive, STB, said the partnership with Airbnb Experiences is a timely one. "As travel gradually resumes, we want to focus on strengthening Singapore’s brand image in the minds of audiences around the world, and ensure that our destination remains topof-mind. This partnership will also give passionate Singapore hosts a world-leading platform to reach out to quality travellers globally, while helping them innovate and explore new business models. We are excited about working with Airbnb, and look forward to breaking new ground together," he added. 

Chris Lehane, senior vice president, policy and communications, Airbnb added: "Healthy travel is travel that keeps the economics local and is authentic to the culture of the destination. In the context of seeking to support such healthy travel, we are excited to be partnering with the Singapore Tourism Board to promote experiential travel in one of the world's most vibrant and dynamic communities."

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(Photo courtesy: 123RF)

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